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Evidence Accumulation Models: Current Limitations and Future Directions

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Doi: 10.20982/tqmp.16.2.p073

Evans, Nathan J. , Wagenmakers, Eric-Jan
Keywords: Sampling models
(no sample data)   (no appendix)

Evidence accumulation models (EAMs) have been the dominant models of speeded decision-making for several decades. These models propose that evidence accumulates for decision alternatives at some rate, until the evidence for one alternative reaches some threshold that triggers a decision. As a theory, EAMs have provided an accurate account of the choice response time distributions in a range of decision-making tasks, and as a measurement tool, EAMs have provided direct insight into how cognitive processes differ between groups and experimental conditions, resulting in EAMs becoming the \emph {standard paradigm} of speeded decision-making. However, we argue that there are several limitations to how EAMs are currently tested and applied, which have begun to limit their value as a standard paradigm. Specifically, we believe that a theoretical plateau has been reached for the level of explanation that EAMs can provide about the decision-making process, and that applications of EAMs have started to become restrictive and of limited value. We provide several recommendations for how researchers can help to overcome these limitations. As a theory, we believe that EAMs can provide further value through being constrained by sources of data beyond the standard choice response time distributions, being extended to the entire decision-making process from encoding to responding, and having the random sources of variability replaced by systematic sources of variability. As a measurement tool, we believe that EAMs can provide further value through being a default method of inference for cognitive psychology in place of mean response time and choice, and being applied to a broader range of empirical questions that better capture individual differences in cognitive processes.

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